A Real Living Stylist's 10 Secret Tools

Here are the tools you need to achieve that picture-perfect home!

Photography: Ocs Alvarez (Main Photo)

If you’ve gone through Real Living’s home tours and Décor Ideas or Entertaining articles, you would probably see photo after photo of impeccably designed, clutter-free rooms and stylish vignettes like this bedroom setup:

What you wouldn’t see, of course, are the behind-the-scenes actions of former RL creative director Gwyn Guanzon, along with stylists Dagny Madamba, Tala Singson, Kamila Garcia, or Coni Tejada working their magic on creating the perfect vignette in an empty room (in this case, the print magazine’s final cover image):

Even the homes get a minimum amount of styling—a bit of clearing of tabletops of and proper furniture angling, while preserving the overall character of the space. These tricks of the trade give your vignettes a polished look in a minimum amount of time.

Here, interior designer and contributing Real Living stylist Dagny Madamba reveals her ten secret styling tools and how you can use them in your own home.

Sticky tack

The tiny clay strip that feels like Play-doh is the number one tool of interior and prop stylists—they use the clay to temporarily mount lightweight frames and décor onto walls, or to keep delicate, breakable items in place.

Use it at home: “Homeowners can use it for keeping freestanding artwork, for example yung mga nakapatong lang sa shelves, from falling off,” advises Dagny.

Adhesive picture hanging strips

These adhesive strips, which can be affixed to the back of picture frames and then mounted on the wall, adhering to another strip, are more convenient and clean-looking than the usual metal or plastic picture hooks.

Use it at home: Hang lightweight wooden or plastic wall décor with these easy strips.

READ: 5 Easy Ways to Hang Multiple Photos

Contact paper

When shooting flatlays or setups, contact paper—the self-adhesive paper that comes in rolls, which are plain or printed with patterned woodgrain or stone—serves as a perfect, seamless backdrop for the vignette.

Use it at home:Magandang gawing drawer liners ang contact paper,” says Dagny.

Branches and other natural materials

Dagny usually walks around, picking up odd-looking stones or gnarled tree branches to add to her styled setups. “Nakaka-add ng depth and interest ang branches,” she says. “Tapos to add natural textures, try rolls of abaca or raffia…which can be bought in Dapitan Arcade or Divi.”


Use it at home: Place a dramatic tree branch in a simple glass vase in your entry foyer to add a sculptural touch. Use an abaca runner to disguise a boring dining or coffee table.

Stick-on tiles

When stylists and production designers have to create a studio kitchen out of scratch, stick-on ceramic tiles are a godsend, as they don’t have to deal with additional labor and grouting.

Use it at home: “If you have a small condo kitchen, stick-on tiles are an easy option for your backsplash,” says Dagny.

READ: Give Your Kitchen A Makeover With Stick-on Tiles

Turf or artificial grass

Whenever a stylist needs an outdoor backdrop for a tight vignette or product shoot, they can fake it with a patch of artificial grass or turf and natural lighting.

Use it at home: Marami akong kilala na ginagamit ang turf on the balcony or even as indoor rugs,” says Dagny. You can buy rolls of faux grass at CW Home Depot.

READ: Yes, You Can Use Fake Grass At Home

Wooden pallets

Unpainted wooden pallets can add the right industrial-rustic touch to a setup, as well as provide height when propped up one on top of another.

Use it at home: Wooden pallets can be used as casual side tables or coffee tables, with a bit of sanding and simple carpentry. “Mabibili ninyo ito sa mga roadside stalls sa Tandang Sora or Commonwealth.”

READ: 5 Ways To Use Pallets At Home

Apron with pockets

A simple apron with pockets has recently become one of Dagny’s must-haves. “Bumili ako ng kitchen apron, para habang nag-i-istyle ako, meron akong lalagyanan ng gamit na convenient.

Use it at home: Wear an apron to keep your small tools on hand when doing your at-home DIY projects.

Scissors, box cutter

Stylists usually have more than one pair of scissors on hand (they often get misplaced) to snip loose threads, and box cutters to open the multiple sealed boxes of accessories and furniture at a shoot.

Use it at home: Now who doesn’t have a pair of scissors at home?

 Masking tape, foam tape, double-sided adhesive, needle and thread, bullclips

Stylists won’t leave for a big shoot without these items in their styling kit, in case they have to stitch up a long curtain, fasten an errant slipcover, or stick prints onto a wall.


Use it at home: Keep these fix-it essentials in a handy toolbox that you can bring out if a curtain, furniture piece, or pillow needs a quick touchup before guests arrive.

More on

This Young Stylist Takes Flatlays And Instagram To Another Level

5 Ways To Style Like A Pro

Style Your Coffee Table Like A Pro


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